​Playing our part in school feeding, Bolivia

The challenge: In Bolivia, the World Food Programme reports that around 39 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, with levels of undernourishment the highest in South America (15.9 percent). For children under five, malnutrition stands at 18 percent and many children over five go to school on an empty stomach and struggle to concentrate simply because they’re hungry.

The initiative: Recognising that safe, quality food is key to learning and development, the government introduced official legislation in 2014. The school feeding programme is now in 339 municipalities funded by the Ministry of Education, with technical support from international non-governmental organisations including the World Food Programme, as well as the private sector.

Following the positive experiences of existing school feeding programmes in the North, Central and South Americas region, we took our expertise to Bolivia in 2016 where our customers started to supply fortified nectar in Tetra Brik® Aseptic 200ml packages to 47,000 primary school children in 83 schools. Throughout the year, we worked together with the local food processing industry to improve the existing programme by advising on nutrition for improved health and access to safe food across more regions of Bolivia, as well as providing practical support to implement and evaluate the school feeding programme.

The value: We are proud to be part of a nationwide initiative to improve nutrition and, in turn, the educational outcomes of children in Bolivia. From many years’ experience in school feeding, we know that this intervention directly improves children’s attendance and educational performance, as well as their physical height and weight. We are working with municipalities recommending best practices to track programme impact, comparing the results with schools not involved in the programme. This includes acceptability studies to understand what product and packaging is accepted by children.

We also continue to partner with our customers and schools directly to ensure that the distribution and storage chain follows the highest safety and quality standards, regularly checking procedures on the ground and providing information and advice around food safety.

Looking ahead: There is a potential for the programme to stimulate further local dairy supply chains by including milk provision multiple times a week to complement the fortified nectar. We also seek to support more around post-consumption reuse of our packages, since recycling infrastructure is largely unavailable across the isolated municipalities we work in. We have already seen how children and schools can be innovative in turning empty packages into works of art or even containers to nurture saplings for school garden projects. The shared ambition of all partners in the school feeding programme is for it to become self-sustaining and a permanent feature of Bolivian society.

Do you want to learn more about the school feeding programme?